My sister sent this picture to our group text this morning. It’s a picture of our grandparents’ old house, now with new colored siding and solar panels on the roof. She saw it on one of the several Instagram accounts she follows from one of our former hometowns of Germantown, NY.
Seeing the picture made me think of my grandma. My relationship with her has been one of the most formative of my life, if not the most formative, particularly when it comes to faith and having a personal relationship with Jesus. (I almost put “personal relationship with Jesus” in quotation marks but it felt and sounded disrespectful).
This morning I asked myself what it was about her that ministered to me so deeply. Not even thinking of the all the times she and my grandpa took me and my sisters with them to missionary conferences, VBS, church on Sunday mornings then back again for Sunday and Wednesday evenings, within seconds I thought of these four things:
- She fed me
- She housed me
- She listened to me
- She encouraged me
I called my grandma and told her the four things, and that it reminded me of another set of words I have read before, when Jesus turns to the ones who will inherit the Kingdom: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did to me (Matthew 25)”.
I haven’t gone crazy with it, but over these extremely personal past several months, I’ve been reading a bit about the human nervous system. Knowing what I know now I can look at that list and see that what my grandmother gave me was the felt sense of love. My body, soul, and mind were merged to register safety and love by her actions. She would’ve never even had to use the word love, and I still would’ve known I was loved by her.
Words can only mean so much. Thanks to the invention of modern technology, as I have read and listened for several years to the people who grew up with similar and different church backgrounds talk about their faith deconstruction stories, I have noticed a common thread in these personal faith experiences. Somehow you can hear and know for years that Jesus loves you, so much so that he died on the cross for your sins.
And there can still be a disconnect. Stay in the place of disconnect for too long and the truth begins to feel like a lie, and in some kind of twistedly complicated and intricately physiological way, they wouldn’t be completely wrong. Somehow people in the church missed the felt sense of love. In a long-term relationship, you can’t just say “You are loved, and I love you.” The felt sense of love is built up in small moments. It’s the ten-thousandth tender small text to your spouse saying, “I’m here at the store. Do you need anything?”
As people who belong to the body of Christ, we are now in a long-term, everlasting relationship. In the parable of the sower, Jesus tells us that though the Word will go out and people will hear the good news of the Kingdom of God, not every seed becomes a lifelong faith. At the same time, as a human needs to be clothed and fed, and a marriage needs to be tended to often, so the body of Christ comes with a need to be nurtured.
Yoga went really well yesterday. There was no smearing ourselves with sand, and it was a sweet time of being with the girls. The thing I appreciate about yin style yoga (I’m struggling to say and like this word) is that it’s non-judgmental. You’re not judging your body saying, “You know, I think I’d like you better if you were more like this.” Instead you’re saying, “This is who you are, softly loved and welcome here.” Those are times when healing comes.
Some experiences in life form us and others deform us. For the times that formed me, I truly give thanks. For the times that deformed me in detestable ways, I’m coming to the point where I’m raising the white flag and saying to God, “You have searched the very depths of my soul. I have tried to be different. I have tried to change, but certain things about me aren’t going away. I will do my best to steward these wounds, and I will hope in the word that you can love me like this.”